August 24, 2012

BEIRUT: Greenpeace Lebanon warned Thursday that there are hundreds of dangerous chemicals in the waters off the country, which pose dangers to people and the environment.

A total of 30 samples were collected for the study and the environmental watchdog’s new report shows that the pollution is highest in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon.

Rayan Makarem, a campaigner for the non-governmental organization, presented the report, entitled “Lebanon’s Toxic Coast: an overview of threats, problems and solutions,” and emphasized that the responsibility for combating this problem lies with both the public and private sectors.

“The situation, as it stands, is very dangerous,” Makarem said, adding that Lebanon’s waters must be protected. He called for a comprehensive law on waste management in the country, rather than just a series of emergency laws.

He also stressed the need for Lebanon to abide by the Barcelona Convention that the government has ratified, and which was created to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.

“It is the responsibility of the government to handle the issue of waste-water management through the implementation of current plans to complete the waste-water infrastructure for the country and stop the dumping of raw sewage directly into the Mediterranean,” a statement from Greenpeace said.

“In addition, new legislation should be passed to allow for a complete upheaval of the solid waste sector, which is suffering from the absence of modern rules and regulations,” Makarem said.

He stressed that there was clear evidence that the byproducts of industrial waste were damaging the environment and added that private companies must work to halt this trend.

“Industries in Lebanon can and should be able to control their emissions in accordance with existing legislation … as well as investing in improving their industrial process or in the installation of the required filters, ” he said.

Makarem called on the Environment Ministry to carry out its duties properly by confronting all violations of environmental crimes.

He added that a study commissioned by the ministry in 2005 had discussed the problems facing the Lebanese coast but, “unfortunately, this study had been sitting in a drawer for the last seven years.”

If necessary, Makarem said, the ministry should bypass unnecessary bureaucratic procedures in order to carry out its work.

Mohammad Baalbaki, head of the Press Federation, where Thursday’s launch was held, praised Greenpeace and its role in raising awareness of the issues facing Lebanon’s coast.

“It’s not acceptable that Lebanon’s seas are at risk of this toxicity,” he said.

The study was conducted by Greenpeace in collaboration with the University of Exeter in Britain, and the input of Carol Sukhn, a leading expert in Lebanon on eco-toxicology.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 24, 2012, on page 4.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::